Monday, 1 August 2016

Remembering the Abolition of Slavery in the Cape

In 1838, some 39,000 slaves in the Cape Colony were freed by British Empire decree - though it took several years for the law to be fully implemented. Between 1653 and 1856, approximately 72,000 slaves had arrived in the Cape, either imported as unfree labour or prisoners of war from the colonial battles fought across South and South East Asia. Around 62% of the slaves were from Africa and Madagascar and around 90% or more of POWs were also from Africa. Just over 17,300 slaves brought to the Cape were from South Asia and a further 13,500 were from the Indonesian archipelago. In addition, there were were many slaves who originated in the territories of Bengal, Burma, Siam, Laos, Molucca, Cambodia, Cochinchina, Annam and Tonkin; it is forgotten today that some slaves even originated in Japan. Because a major plantation economy was never established at the Cape beyond the small wine-farms (that came later in Natal between 1860 and 1911, with the importation of indentured South Asian labour to work the sugar plantations), the long legacy of slavery in the Cape is often forgotten. What follows is an extract from A Taste of Bitter Almonds that details my own families convoluted ties to slavery at the Cape:

... the black-and-white image of a strikingly poised young woman. She was wearing the finest silk brocade corsetry of her age, the Photostat reproduction of the original 17th Century oil painting barely dulling the gleam of her bodice. The delicate lace ribboned at her elbows and throat seemed unusually relaxed for the era. Her throat had a string of what are probably pearls and she held a peach in one hand and a folded fan in the other. Her hair was tightly coiled and coiffed into two formations like ear-muffs at the sides of her head: delicately-built with high cheekbones and a calm, intelligently appraising gaze, she looked like an ancient Princess Leia. The caption gives her as “Anna de Koning, wife of Oloff Bergh”. 
The text drew me into the tale of the remarkable South Asian slave Angela of Bengal (1633?-1720), Anna's mother, who was sold to Riebeeck in 1659, seven years after he'd made landfall and established the VOC fort – in the year in which he fought the 1st Dutch-Khoekhoen War against the Strandlopers and ordered the bitter almond hedge planted. Angela of Bengal's career is dramatic : sold by a departing van Riebeeck to his second-in-command in 1662, she and her three illegitimate Eurasian children were liberated when the man was transferred to the VOC's East Indies headquarters of Batavia; she established a market garden on the slopes of Table Mountain on her own 3,35-hectare plot of land, Den Leem Bries, bounded by what is now Castle Street and titled to her in 1702, and made good selling fresh fruit to scurvy-vulnerable passing ships. She secured her future in 1669, marrying VOC soldier and sometime free burgher Arnoldus Willemz “Jaght” Basson of Wesel in what was then part of the United Dutch Republic; the couple became, the text states, “the progenitors of all the Bassons in South Africa.”
Of interest to me is Angela of Bengal's eldest daughter, Anna de Koning (or de Coningh, or de Coninck in the notoriously unstandardised spelling of the era), the woman in the picture and likewise a former slave, born out of wedlock in 1661 to the VOC soldier and mason François de Coninck of Ghent in what was then the Spanish Netherlands, now Belgium. 
Anna and her two half-brothers were freed along with their mother in 1666, and Anna later married-up in dramatic fashion, to a Swede, Oloff Bergh of Göteborg, close friends with Simon van der Stel, the Eurasian VOC Governor of the Cape, who later became the settlement's military commander in the 2nd Dutch-Khoekhoen War. Her eldest surviving daughter, Christina Bergh, married the stamvader, patriarch, of the De Wet family, Jacobus de Wet, and two of their daughters married into my stamvader’s family: Johanna Hillegonde de Wet married Jacobus Johannes le Sueur (1734-1807), the magistrate of the district of Stellenbosch and Drakenstein and fourth child of François le Sueur (?-1758), my stamvader, who had arrived at the Cape in 1729 on board the Midloo as the last Huguenot settler, to preside as dominee over die Groote Kerk in Cape Town between until 1746, and who married the Governer’s sister Johanna Catharina Swellengrebel in 1730; while her sister Catharina Jacoba de Wet married Jacobus’ brother Petrus Lodewikus le Sueur. 
Stamvader François le Sueur hailed from Ooyen in Gelderland, near the border with the Spanish Netherlands, to which his father, Jacques le Sueur, married to Johanna Smit, had fled from Catholic persecution in France in about 1695. Among the preacher’s children, his fourth in particular prospered: Jacobus Johannes le Sueur became the Stellenbosch Magistrate and married a German daughter of the founding elite, the Blankenburgs of the famous wine-farm Meerlust, who bore him 18 children. After retiring from the Lord’s work in 1846, Dominee François, or Franciscus as he’d been nicknamed by the Dutch, purchased the Ekelenburg estate in Rondebosch, in the shadow of Table Mountain. The original Eckelenburg homestead burned down in the 1850s, but was rebuilt and decades later, in 1917, a portion of the land was sold to the Marist Brothers who built the St Joseph’s school there.
Back in the early settlement, a cultural watershed moment occurred in 1707 when a white teenager named Hendrik Biebouw stood up to Stellenbosch magistrate Johannes Sterrenberg, a predecessor of my ancestor magistrate le Sueur, who had attempted to pacify a mob in the town, retorting: “Ik ben een Afrikaander – al slaat de landdrost mij dood, of al zetten hij mij in de tronk, ik zal, nog wil niet zwijgen!": "I am an African – even if the magistrate were to beat me to death, or put me in jail, I shall not be, nor will I stay, silent!” For his remarkable stance in essentially denying the jurisdiction of the the Dutch colonist overlords because he was a white African, an “Afrikaander” – the first time the word occurs in the colonial record – Biebouw was deported to Jakarta. This incident, celebrated by later generations of Boers (literally Farmers) as part of their foundational mythology is notable because Biebouw was not speaking Afrikaans, that “kitchen Dutch” tongue of the underclasses that only came into its own in the late 19th Century, but Dutch, so the intent of his words are clear. Not least, Biebouw is believed to have half-caste siblings .
So in the inimitable fashion of Old Cape families, I share with the Bassons and the de Wets a common ancestor in the freed South Asian slave Angela of Bengal, a formidable matriarch who became the first land-holding “free black” in the Cape and who in turn became a slave owner, whose Eurasian half-breed daughter Anna de Koning rose to become the wife of the man who commanded military expeditions against the aborigines, and who was for 11 years mistress of the Manor House at the grand estate at Groot Constantia after Governor Simon van der Stel’s death – and yet whose multicultural environment was inexorably shifting away from identification with Europe to identification with Africa. 
Back at home I have a scan of the front page of the Cape Town Gazette and African Advertiser, dated Saturday 2 May 1801. The newspaper records the offerings of an auction of another of my ancestors’ homes, at No.29 Heerengracht, Cape Town, then as now, one of the most prestigious addresses in the Mother City: 
“On Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, the 5th, 6th, and 7th Instant, 1801, Will be Sold Publicly, A House and premises, No.29 Heere Gragt, the property of the late Mr. Le Sueur. Also a quantity of household furniture, bedsteads, bedding &c. gold, silver, copper, pewter, iron, China, and glass ware, men and women slaves, some very able masons, carpenters &c. merchandize, and several other articles, all to be viewed on Monday the 4th”.  
I was also aware that le Sueurs had owned an estate at Fresnaye overlooking the Atlantic Ocean (today, suburban Le Sueur Avenue is all that remains of its long driveway) – but until I discovered the Cape Town Gazette article, had no proof of the obvious: that we’d once owned slaves of colour, all lumped together with the other “merchandize.”

André van Rensburg writes on the Stamouers blog at that the following female slaves (including Angela of Bengal and her daughter, my direct ancestor Anna de Coningh, and her granddaughter Christina Bergh) were the stammoeders of prominent Afrikaner families:

Dorothea van Bengale stammoeder of AHLERS

Maria Magdalena Combrink stammoeder of  ALBERTS

Johannes Christoffel van Balie ANTHONISSEN

Rachel Johanna Catharina van de Kaap stammoeder of BAM

Angela van Bengale stammoeder of BASSON

Anna de Coningh stammoeder of BERGH

Anna Bok stammoeder of BESTER

Catharina van de Kaap stamoeder of BEYERS

Diana van Madagscar stammoeder of BIEBOUW

Anna Groothenning van Bengale stammoeder of BOK

Arriaanje van Cathryn stammoeder of BOSHOUWER

Ansela van de Kaap stammoeder of CAMPHER

Catharina van Malabar stammoeder of CORNELISSEN

Maria Everts stammoeder of COLYN

Magadalena Ley, stammoeder of COMBRINCK

Christina Bergh stammoeder of DE WET

Cornelia van Saxen stamoeder of DEYSSEL

Sara Heyns stammoeder of EKSTEEN

Maria Heufke van de Kaap stammoeder of FLECK

Anna Willemse stammoeder of FRANKEN

Susanna van Bombassa also called van Madagascar, stammoeder of GERRITS

Elizabeth Plagmann stammoeder of GEYER

Apollonia Cornelia Mocke stammoeder of HANCKE

Marie Beyers stammoeder of HARMSE

Susanna Visser stammoeder of HATTINGH

Cecilia van Angola stammoeder of HERBST

Lasya Rachel Struwig stammoeder of HEYNE

Maria Schalk van der Merwe stammoeder of HEYNS

Maria LOZEE stamoeder of HEYNS

Elizabeth VION van de Kaap stammoeder of HUMAN

Catharina Hoffman & Johanna Jonker stammoeders of LANDMAN

Barendina van Graan stammoeder of LANGEVELD

Helena Rebekka Schott van de Kaap Stammoeder of LANGEVELD

Catharina Valentynse stammoeder of LEEUWNER

Susanna Fleck stammoeder of LEHMANN

Spacie van de Kaap stammoeder of LESCH

Sara Pieters stammoeder of LESER

Petronella Johanna Hartog stammoeder of LINGENFELDER

Sophia Rebekka Plagmann stammoeder of MOCKE

Jette Claesz stammoeder of MOLLER

Cornelia van de Kaap stammoeder of NEUHOFF

Agnitie Colyn Stammoeder of OBERHOLSTER

Susanna Biebouw stammoeder of ODENDAAL

Sara van de Kaap stammoeder of OELOFSE

Martha Catharina Jacobse & Johanna Jonker stammoeders of OLCKERS

Apollonia Jansz stammoeder of PLAGMANN

Cornelia Cornelisse stammoeder of PYL

Dorothea van de Kaap stammoeder of PYPER

Christina Voges stammoeder of SCHUTTE

Johanna Christina Langeveld stammoeder of SPAMER

Stamvader Christoffel SNYMAN

Maria Lozee stammoeder of STEYN

Beatrix de Vyf stammoeder of SUBKLEF

Magdalena Aletta Hartog stammoeder of VAN COPPENHAGEN

Agnietie Campher stammoeder of VAN DER SWAAN

Rebekka van de Kaap stammoeder of VAN GRAAN

David Simon stamvader of VAN HOON

Jannetje Bort stammoeder of VAN KONINGSHOVEN

Catharina van Colombo stammoeder of VERMAAK

Catharina van Bengale stammoeder of VERMEULEN

Maria van Bengale & Maria van Negapatnam stammoeders of VISSER

Sara van Graan stammoeder of VOLSCHENK

Johanna Bok stammoeder of VOS

Anna Willemse & Regina van de Kaap stammoeders of WEPENER

Magteld Cornelisse van Bengale stammoeder of WILLEMSE

Other families with slave 'stamouers'




Anna Willemse Stammoeder of BRAND

Geertruy Boshouwer Stammoeder of BRONKHORST








Adriaentje van Cathryn Stammoeder of HELM HENDRIKSEN

Alida Cornelis Stammoeder of HEYDER





Maria Steyn Stammoeder of KRIEL

Gerbrecht Boshouwer Stammoeder of van LOCHERENBERG


Maria Cornelisse Stammoeder of NIEWOUDT



Adriaentje Claasen Stammoeder of SPELDENBERG


Alida Cornelis Stammoeder of VAN DEN BERG

Cornelia Cornelisz Stammoeder of VAN TONDEREN